Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
1,217,531 views • 8:09

Today, I want you to look at children who become suicide bombers through a completely different lens. In 2009, there were 500 bomb blasts across Pakistan. I spent the year working with children who were training to become suicide bombers and with Taliban recruiters, trying to understand how the Taliban were converting these children into live ammunition and why these children were actively signing up to their cause.

I want you to watch a short video from my latest documentary film, "Children of the Taliban."


The Taliban now run their own schools. They target poor families and convince the parents to send their children. In return, they provide free food and shelter and sometimes pay the families a monthly stipend. We've obtained a propaganda video made by the Taliban. Young boys are taught justifications for suicide attacks and the execution of spies.

I made contact with a child from Swat who studied in a madrassa like this. Hazrat Ali is from a poor farming family in Swat. He joined the Taliban a year ago when he was 13.

How do the Taliban in your area get people to join them?

Hazrat Ali: They first call us to the mosque and preach to us. Then they take us to a madrassa and teach us things from the Koran.

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy: He tells me that children are then given months of military training.

HA: They teach us to use machine guns, Kalashnikov, rocket launchers, grenades, bombs. They ask us to use them only against the infidels. Then they teach us to do a suicide attack.

SOC: Would you like to carry out a suicide attack?

HA: If God gives me strength.

SOC: I, in my research, have seen that the Taliban have perfected the way in which they recruit and train children, and I think it's a five-step process. Step one is that the Taliban prey on families that are large, that are poor, that live in rural areas. They separate the parents from the children by promising to provide food, clothing, shelter to these children. Then they ship them off, hundreds of miles away to hard-line schools that run along the Taliban agenda.

Step two: They teach the children the Koran, which is Islam's holiest book, in Arabic, a language these children do not understand and cannot speak. They rely very heavily on teachers, who I have personally seen distort the message to these children as and when it suits their purpose to. These children are explicitly forbidden from reading newspapers, listening to radio, reading any books that the teachers do not prescribe them. If any child is found violating these rules, he is severely reprimanded. Effectively, the Taliban create a complete blackout of any other source of information for these children.

Step three: The Taliban want these children to hate the world that they currently live in. So they beat these children — I have seen it; they feed them twice a day dried bread and water; they rarely allow them to play games; they tell them that, for eight hours at a time, all they have to do is read the Koran. The children are virtual prisoners; they cannot leave, they cannot go home. Their parents are so poor, they have no resources to get them back.

Step four: The older members of the Taliban, the fighters, start talking to the younger boys about the glories of martyrdom. They talk to them about how when they die, they will be received up with lakes of honey and milk, how there will be 72 virgins waiting for them in paradise, how there will be unlimited food, and how this glory is going to propel them to become heroes in their neighborhoods. Effectively, this is the brainwashing process that has begun.

Step five: I believe the Taliban have one of the most effective means of propaganda. Their videos that they use are intercut with photographs of men and women and children dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and in Pakistan. And the basic message is that the Western powers do not care about civilian deaths, so those people who live in areas and support governments that work with Western powers are fair game. That's why Pakistani civilians, over 6,000 of whom have been killed in the last two years alone, are fair game. Now these children are primed to become suicide bombers. They're ready to go out and fight because they've been told that this is effectively their only way to glorify Islam.

I want you to watch another excerpt from the film.

This boy is called Zenola. He blew himself up, killing six. This boy is called Sadik. He killed 22. This boy is called Messoud. He killed 28. The Taliban are running suicide schools, preparing a generation of boys for atrocities against civilians.

Do you want to carry out a suicide attack?

Boy: I would love to. But only if I get permission from my dad. When I look at suicide bombers younger than me, or my age, I get so inspired by their terrific attacks.

SOC: What blessing would you get from carrying out a suicide attack?

Boy: On the day of judgment, God will ask me, "Why did you do that?" I will answer, "My Lord! Only to make you happy! I have laid down my life fighting the infidels." Then God will look at my intention. If my intention was to eradicate evil for Islam, then I will be rewarded with paradise.

Singer: ♫ On the day of judgment ♫ ♫ My God will call me ♫ ♫ My body will be put back together ♫ ♫ And God will ask me why I did this ♫

SOC: I leave you all with this thought: If you grew up in these circumstances, faced with these choices, would you choose to live in this world or in the glorious afterlife? As one Taliban recruiter told me, "There will always be sacrificial lambs in this war."

Thank you. (Applause)